Sunday, November 4, 2012 Updated: November 5, 4:18 AM ET
Tony Romo provides air of hope
By Todd Archer ESPNDallas.com
ATLANTA -- There are times when the Dallas Cowboys can make things look so easy offensively.
The Cowboys need a faster tempo that can be generated by giving Tony Romo more control on offense.
Take their only touchdown drive Sunday night at Atlanta. Trailing 16-6 in the fourth quarter, Tony Romo completed all six passes for 78 yards, ending it with a 21-yard score to Kevin Ogletree. It took all of 2 minutes, 28 seconds, and gave the Cowboys a chance.
It was easy.
And then there was the rest of the game.
It's time for Cowboys coach Jason Garrett to cede some of the offensive control to Tony Romo.
As unlikely as it might seem after eight games, the only way the 3-5 Cowboys are going to make a push for a playoff spot will come on Romo's right arm.
Giving Romo more responsibility probably sounds a little foolish to a lot of you because of the quarterback's 13 interceptions in the first eight games of the season, but going the traditional route is just not going to work.
Not this year. Not with this team. Not with this running game.
If the Cowboys are not playing against an aging and slow Baltimore Ravens defense, they are not going to run the ball. DeMarco Murray's return from a sprained foot might help -- might -- but let's not act like Murray was off to a great start before getting hurt.
If you want to cite the 6-0 record when Murray carries it at least 20 times, then maybe the Cowboys should just call 20 straight runs to start the game because that will guarantee a victory. Facetiousness aside, these Cowboys can't run the ball well enough to score points.
Jason Witten and the offense function better when the Cowboys spread the field.
Against the Atlanta Falcons, who entered with the 26th ranked run defense, the Cowboys ran 18 times for 65 yards. Forty-two of those yards came on the first drive of the second half. Whatever they found in that drive was not sustained.
The Cowboys don't have to abandon the run altogether, but they need to play at a faster tempo. They've shown the past two games when they play fast they can exploit teams with the passing game.
During a conference call last week with the Atlanta media, Romo said he was lobbying Garrett to use more of the offense that allowed the Cowboys to overcome a 23-0 deficit to the New York Giants. Yes, Romo made most of that mess with three interceptions, but they took the lead in that game with him throwing the ball. And throwing it often.
The next day, Romo was asked about the comments, and he said something about styles make fights.
If the Cowboys want to fight, then their style has to be all about Romo.
The Cowboys are at their best when they have three wide receivers on the field. Miles Austin can beat any slot cornerback. Dez Bryant did not do much Sunday, but he has shown he can make plays. Jason Witten excels with a spread field too. Heck, Ogletree had a 65-yard catch in addition to his touchdown grab.
Maybe spreading the field will help the running game. The Cowboys tried to play the power game on a third-and-1 call in the second quarter, but Phillip Tanner ran into the back of fullback Lawrence Vickers to force a punt. Their two best runs came with three receivers on the field.
Is it too easy to say the Cowboys would have had that kind of success all game if they played at a faster tempo?
"I'm not sure," said Romo, who completed 25 of 35 passes for 321 yards for a touchdown. "I just think it's easy for you to look at it and say it, but I don't assess that sort of thing. In certain parts of the game, you do certain things and "
He never finished the thought.
"The coverages change a little bit in those situations, but Tony's as good as there is in those situations," Witten said. "Maybe it's something we look at, but we're just really good at that. It's too late [now]. This feeling isn't good. You've got to find a way to come out on the other end of these games. It's hard. That's a good team, but we find a way to lose them and they find ways to win them."
If they're ever going to win them this year, they need go to Romo -- in a hurry.